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Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology

Program Overview

The Developmental Psychology program specializes in research on the development of social and interpersonal processes as they exist in real-world contexts from the prenatal period and infancy through late adulthood. Our faculty seek to understand developmental changes in individuals' cognition, emotion, and biobehavioral systems within real life situations like parenting, families, schools, and relationships. Within these contexts, faculty examine diverse issues, including how mental representations influence problem solving, conflict resolution, and moral reasoning; how narratives in conversation serve to regulate development; how people cope with chronic health problems within their social worlds; how sexuality and sexual identity develop; and how childhood experiences get “under the skin” to effect durable changes in the epigenome and other biological systems involved in physical and psychological development. An important methodological focus of our program is on how statistics, dynamical system theory, methods for analyzing repeated observations, and developmental theories can be integrated to advance understanding of how, when, and why people change.  The Developmental Psychology program is home to Developmental Adaptations, Stress, and Health (DASH), a research and training collaborative focused on understanding mechanisms through which childhood experiences influence adaptive and maladaptive neural, physiological, and behavioral development.

Developmental Handbook

Practical Application

Our goal is to provide students with a solid background in theoretical issues and in the conduct and design of research. Students are encouraged to tailor their program to suit their career goals through coursework, specialized projects, and individual work with faculty members. Students train in laboratories and field experiences for investigating lifespan development in social contexts. Students are exposed to both quantitative and qualitative approaches to developmental research, as well as ways of examining change both within the individual and within social groups. The faculty span the entire human lifespan in their interests, thus students can also ground their training in an appreciation for infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Career Ideas in Developmental

  1. Work as professors in settings varying from community colleges to major research universities.
  2. Work in public policy and other applied settings, using their understanding of lifespan development and research methods to help develop, test, and promote solutions to real world problems.
  3. Work in industry (including television) to help companies develop products for people that are specific to developmental needs (i.e., simpler cell-phones, better toys).
  4. Work for the federal and state governments on issues relevant to people in particular age groups, or on the allocation of research funds to developmental research.
  5. Work for survey research companies. Several Developmental Psychology Ph.D.s work for a local survey company.
  6. Go on to use their expertise in a variety of research settings in the health industry.

Faculty with Developmental Psychology Focus

Last Updated: 2/23/18